Hannah Kendall – Tuxedo: Dust Bowl #3 (2022)
Dominic McGonigal – A New Love Song (2023)*
Louis Andriessen – Je vois une ortie dans l’herbe (1998)
Sylvia Lim – Paper Wings (2015)
Paul Evernden – Who Am I? (2023)*
INTERVAL – Sheena Phillips – Wassail (2018)
Megan Steinberg – De Gipsy Moon (2023)*
Janet Oates – Sappho’s Moon-night (2023)*
Janet Oates – On the Walls (2015)
Emily Abdy – if you could just get the cobweb (2022)
Blasio Kavuma – Pathways (2020)
* indicates premiere
CoMA (Contemporary Music for All) has a vision for contemporary music to be open to everyone, celebrating participation in new music-making as an essential part of our lives. It commissions new music from leading composers and has a network of amateur ensembles in the UK and internationally, creating environments for music-makers of all backgrounds and abilities to build musical communities and new repertoires.
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CoMA London is an ensemble of strings, woodwind, brass, piano and percussion, conducted by Matthew Hardy. It is an open and inviting group and meets every Tuesday. Want to join? See our ensemble page, or email email@example.com. Rehearsals begin again in January.
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Matthew Hardy joined CoMA London Ensemble as music director in September 2019. He is the co-founder and artistic director of East London Music Group and works extensively as a music director of orchestras, choirs, and bands in London and the Southeast. He frequently commissions new works and has given premieres of pieces by composers such as Robin Haigh, Sungji Hong and Héloïse Werner. He graduated in orchestral conducting from the Royal College of Music in 2018.
CoMA Singers is a London-based chamber ensemble dedicated to performing and exploring new vocal music, comprising experienced choral and solo singers under the direction of composer and performer Janet Oates. It meets on a termly project basis. Want to join the Singers? Visit their page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Tuxedo: Dust Bowl #3 is a meditative lamentation; a communal expression of grief, loss, displacement and despair; of being in the wilderness, the desert, a dust bowl, where all is dried up and destroyed. The harmonica, an instrument associated with Afro-diasporic sorrow, creates a brutal and harsh sound world symbolic of the plantations.
“The fields are ruined, / the ground is dried up; / the grain is destroyed, / the new wine is dried up, / the olive oil fails / Despair, you farmers, wail you vine growers; / grieve for the wheat and the barley / because the harvest of the field is destroyed. / The vine is dried up / and the fig tree is withered; / the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree– / all the trees of the field–are dried up. / Surely the people’s joy / is withered away.”
Known for her attentive arrangements and immersive world-building, Hannah Kendall looks beyond the boundaries of composition. Her work bridges gaps between different musical cultures, both honouring and questioning the contemporary tradition while telling new stories through it. Kendall is currently a Doctoral Fellow in composition at Columbia University. (Bio by Robin Smith)
This piece is envisaged as a clamour of sound, capturing the lyrical chaos of a London market and the “cries” of the traders: vocal advertisements for their wares, heard (and set musically) for centuries. Each section creates tonal chord clusters, in a contrapuntal and antiphonal context. Singers are free to contribute their cries freely, and later to extemporise their own cries.
Dominic McGonigal read music at King’s College, Cambridge and sang in King’s Chapel Choir. He went on to a career in the music business and as a conductor, with W11 Opera, Opera Spezzata, CoMA Voices, St Anselm and St Cecilia, London and Stoneleigh Choral Society. He returned to composing after a break, writing mainly vocal and chamber works. Recent works include a major setting of the Mass for eight voices, soloists and eight instruments.
Louis Andriessen (1939-2021) was one of the most influential European composers of the late twentieth century. His rejection of what he saw as conservatism in Dutch new music when he was beginning his career led him to refuse to write for traditional orchestras. Consequently he wrote for his own idiosyncratic instrumentations, and much of his music was for flexible ensembles. Je vois une ortie dans l’herbe is one such piece. It comprises a single melodic line, which is played by all players in their own time, unsynchronised, creating echoes and unstable, unpredictable harmonies.
Paper Wings was commissioned by Janet Oates and James Weeks in 2015 for the first volume of CoMA Partsongs. This beautifully delicate piece sounds almost improvised but is precisely structured and notated, with its tiny sounds, pitches, tempi and texts carefully placed and interacting.
Sylvia Lim is a composer based in the UK. Her works are intimate, exploring a small amount of material in depth. She is interested in the materiality of sound, notions of close listening, perception, rawness and instability. Recent commissions include music for Mira Benjamin, Exaudi and The Hermes Experiment. Sylvia is the 2022 winner of Rubiks Collective’s Pythia Prize.
Written for CoMA London and the CoMA Singers, Who am I? also includes both live and pre-recorded electronics. The text is created from interwoven quotations on the theme of self-identity from a variety of writers including Saul Bellow, Fernando Pessoa and Emily Dickinson, as well as borrowing from Ockeghem’s L’autre d’antan, phrases of which are played by different members of the ensemble. An aural tapestry is woven from individual “voices”, each one being linked to another through harmonic or pitch implications, yet each one in almost imperceptible flux with its neighbour, the overriding effect being one of a multicoloured garment slowly being stretched and coming away at the seams.
Paul Evernden’s music has been heard at venues throughout the UK, Europe and Australia. Recent performances include the Theocharakis Foundation in Athens; the Platypus V Marathon Festival in Vienna; the 2011 and 2013 Tête-à-Tête Opera Festivals at the Riverside Studios, London, and at the 2013 IMPULS Festival in Graz, Austria. His music features on the Lorelt and Big Shed Music labels in the UK. Lament, a work for electric string quartet, has been released on the independent Greek label, ekfrassis productions. Paul was awarded a PhD from King’s College London in 2013, and is a founding member of the Eos Ensemble with whom he plays clarinet. He is one of CoMA London’s composers in residence for 2023.
Written for a joint concert of the CoMA Singers and the Michael Singers (the choir of UCL maths faculty) in 2018, Wassail is a joyous, chaotic mingling of fragments of wassails and bell patterns.
Sheena Phillips is a British choral director and composer, currently based in Ohio. Much of her composing is inspired by traditional music, poetry and the natural world. Among the pieces published by Canasg Music are settings of Emily Dickinson, Kathleen Raine and William Soutar, and numerous arrangements of folk music from across the world. Sheena has been commissioned and/or performed by numerous groups on both sides of the Atlantic, including the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, the St Magnus International Festival (Orkney) and Anima Children’s Chorus (Chicago).
De Gipsy Moon, for open ensemble, singers and turntable, is an exploration of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No 1 as interpreted by artificial intelligence. Music and text have been generated by AI using the original piece as a dataset. The performers bring this to life using their own creativity.
Megan Steinberg is an experimental composer, abstract turntablist and producer. Her work looks at putting accessibility at the start of creative process. Megan is one of CoMA London’s composers in residence for 2023. She is studying for a PhD at Royal Northern College of Music, where she is the Lucy Hale doctoral composer in association with Drake Music. She has composed for performers including the Riot Ensemble, Distractfold and Loré Lixenberg. In 2023 she was appointed composer fellow at NEO Voice Festival, Los Angeles. She is artistic director of Lucy Hale Festival.
Sappho’s Moon-night juxtaposes vocal expressivity with the unusual sound-world of an orchestra of tuning-forks (all at concert A) creating drones and percussive effects. At times ethereal and cold, at times energetic and unsettling, the piece reflects the ambiguity of the text (based on two different fragments from Sappho) – solitude need not mean loss; and darkness is often welcome.
The silver moon is down / The seven sisters lost / Half the night, half the night is gone / The hours flow on, flow on, / I am alone.
Written for the CoMA Singers in 2015, On the Walls is a fantasy on Brian Keenan’s words about his time incarcerated by Islamic Jihad in Beirut, Lebanon, in the 1980s.
Text from An Evil Cradling, Keenan’s book about his time as a hostage (1992): “Fearful but filled with desire for this man’s brutality… he could do with me what he wanted but I would have the victory. I felt it in my blood’s heat.”
Text from an interview with Keenan by Robert Fisk in the Independent, 1992: “The cockroaches don’t bother me. I don’t have nightmares nor hallucinations nor dreams. The ants at first disgusted me, constantly crawling over me, but then they fascinated me, because they brought something new into the cell – the miles they would walk each day, with purpose, carrying out a wounded ant or a dead ant. So in a way they became welcome guests.”
Janet Oates holds a PhD in composition from Royal Holloway, University of London, having gained a distinction in her MMus there. She is artistic director of the female vocal ensemble Philomel and runs the ongoing project “Closet Music” which explores the auditory imagination rather than works to be performed out loud.
if you could just get the cobweb there
since you’re, like, up there
Emily Abdy is a composer, songwriter, performer and writer. Somewhere between conceptual song, cinematic soundtrack, theatrical poetry and contemporary-classical music, her work is often highly personal but simultaneously empathetic, drawing on topics of societal importance such as mental health, gender equality and the nature of the music industry. Emily has also worked with film, text and other visual mediums and is known to perform her own and others’ work as a vocalist and instrumentalist. This piece was written for the CoMA festival in 2022, while Emily was a Nonclassical associate composer.
Pathways is an indeterminate piece for mixed ensemble, where many of the pitches and rhythmic placements are left to the performers’ discretion, with only suggested “paths” to help them along. Every choice influences the succeeding one, and every performance of the piece follows its own trajectory; the individual choices of each performer contributing to a collective expression of musical thought.
Blasio Kavuma is a composer, arranger and curator based in London. He is an active collaborator over numerous platforms, including theatre, opera, film, visual art and dance. His music has been published by the label Nonclassical, where he was an associate composer in 2020. Drawing equally from classical and Afro-diasporic musical traditions, he has developed a sound-world full of rhythmic vitality and stylistic versatility, and is committed to championing forward-thinking music that is accessible to a diverse audience.